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Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)

to all the boys i've loved before book cover

Rating: 3 stars

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I found this book to be an enjoyable read for me because it was easy to get through. What made the story so simple to me is that it mostly centered around one character’s daily life and the challenges she was experiencing. It was the story of an ordinary girl, her relationship with her family and how she navigated high school when she discovered that the letters she’d secretly written about the boys she once loved were sent to them without her knowledge. I found this premise interesting, which allowed me to continue turning the page to find out what happened next with Lara Jean.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was also a good read for me because I loved seeing the relationship Lara Jean had with her two sisters Margot and Kitty, her friend Chris, and one of the guys she once cared for Peter. While the story overall doesn’t have too much character development, I feel like you as the reader truly see how Lara Jean interacts with the people she’s close to. You see this in her treatment of her two sisters who she’s been close to over the years due to their mother’s sudden death. I really appreciate this close-knit sibling relationship in this young adult book because you don’t often see these types of relationships with family in this genre. I also enjoyed her relationship with both Chris and Peter because I feel like you get to see Lara Jean’s character come out a little whenever she’s around these two in the story. And that was nice to me because there’s very little of her character that you truly see.

That’s one of my biggest criticisms of this book, not feeling like we as readers get to know Lara Jean. Even though this book is from her perspective, I still feel like I don’t truly understand her character and why she reacts the way she does in the story. In a lot of ways, it made it hard for me to like her character, even though I can relate to her a little bit. She just seemed way too standoffish, to the point where she couldn’t handle normal everyday things. But at the same time, I found myself sympathetic to her most of the time because I felt truly sorry for her.

However, my biggest complaint of this book is that I don’t really feel like it followed the central plot: Lara Jean’s letters that were sent to the guys she loved. The story doesn’t really focus on the letters all too much other than her reaction to finding out they were sent out and her freaking out about one particular person getting a letter. Other than that, the story continues on, as if the letters were never sent out in the first place. Then again, I honestly believe the feelings she had for these guys wasn’t actual love, but feelings a girl gets when she has a big crush on someone. Maybe that’s what made it difficult for me to believe the way the guys reacted to the letters and how Lara Jean handled the whole situation. I guess I’m just surprised these letters didn’t play more of a role in the overall story arc, which made me like the book a little less. What also didn’t help was that it was fairly obvious from the beginning who sent them out in the first place.

But despite my two main criticisms with this book, I still enjoyed reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It was such an easy read and I wanted to see how Lara Jean’s relationships continued to evolve that I couldn’t help but turn the page to see what happened next. I hope that P.S. I Still Love You gives me a better chance to learn more about Lara Jean’s character and is just as easy of a read.

Book Review: A Ship Made of Paper

A Ship Made of Paper Book Cover

Rating: 2 stars

No novelist alive knows the human heart better than Scott Spencer does. No one tells stories about human passion with greater urgency, insight, or sympathy. In A Ship Made of Paper, this artist of desire paints his most profound and compelling canvas yet.

Daniel Emerson lives with Kate Ellis and is like a father to her daughter, Ruby. But he cannot control his desire for Iris Davenport, the African-American woman whose son is Ruby’s best friend. During a freak October blizzard, Daniel is stranded at Iris’s house and they begin a sexual liaison that eventually imperils all their relationships, Daniel’s profession, their children’s well-being, their own race- blindness, and their view of themselves as essentially good people.

A Ship Made of Paper captures all the drama, nuance, and helpless intensity of sexual and romantic yearning, and it bears witness to the age-old conflict between the order of the human community and the disorder of desire.

Overall, A Ship Made of Paper was an okay read for me. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t necessarily enthralled by the story and characters either.

The main plot centers on Daniel Emerson, a lawyer who moves back to the small town he grew up in with his girlfriend Kate Ellis and her daughter Ruby. While back at home, he meets Iris Davenport, an African-American woman whose son is best friends with Ruby. He becomes deeply attracted to Iris Davenport and begins to explore a deeper relationship with her one snowy night in October when a blizzard traps them inside her home. But this secret relationship ends up affecting every aspect of their lives.

What I enjoyed about the story was the writing. It was very descriptive to the point where I felt like I was right in the story as these events transpired. I especially enjoyed seeing the dialogue in the story because it brought the characters to life even better for me.

What I also enjoyed when reading A Ship Made of Paper is the variety of topics that can be discussed when it comes to this book. These topics include racism, sexual desire, infidelity, interracial relationships, justice (these events take place around the time of the OJ Simpson trial), alcohol addiction, and pedophilia (one of the married characters in the story is in love with a blind girl who he’s fancied since she was a child).

I feel like each of these aspects was wonderfully woven into this story through some of the characters who in some ways represent one of these topics. For example, Daniel’s girlfriend Kate Ellis is a writer who to me seems like a good example of what racism and alcohol addiction look like. She denies being racist (of course), but is convinced that OJ Simpson is guilty and writes about the trial throughout the story. She also calls the police when two boys brake into her home during the storm and is convinced that the boys who broke into her home are the recent prisoners who escaped from jail in the story, despite not at all getting a glimpse of their appearance. She also drinks heavily throughout the book, doesn’t matter what’s going on in her life. She always finds a reason to drink even when her relationship with Daniel is starting to fail. She’s a wonderful example of what racism and alcohol addiction look like and I feel like I can see other topics of discussion through all the other characters too.

While I enjoyed reading A Ship Made of Paper because of the writing and the different topics that can be discussed, there are a whole lot of things I overall don’t like about this story that make it difficult to give it a higher rating. While I enjoy the way the story is written, I found the pace and plot of the book to move very slow. It made reading this book all the more difficult for me because I kept waiting for the plot in the story to move along, to reach a climax that made me reading this book worthwhile. But the story kept disappointing me again and again. There were only two moments in the story that really made me want to continue reading to see what happened next: the night of the blizzard and the night when Marie Thorne goes missing. But even that was short lived for me, especially the night when Marie Thorne goes missing, because excerpts of what happens during the search for her are at the beginning of each chapter. So even the most exciting parts of the book become mundane for me because I already catch a glimpse of what’s going to happen even if I don’t get to see all of it.

I also don’t like that none of these characters are at all relatable to me. I especially don’t understand Daniel and his stalker-like behavior towards Iris Davenport, the woman he desperately wants to be with despite already being in a committed relationship with Kate Ellis. His behavior throughout the book screams creepy to me when it comes to Iris, and I found the way he felt about her was more sexual desire than actual true love. The only time I ever believe their relationship to be real at all is whenever they both have serious discussions about what they’re doing. Otherwise, I’m not really convinced that their loving relationship will last. It just seems like a fantasy relationship to me throughout with nothing substantial holding them together. I know a lot of it has to do with them both being unfaithful to their partners. I guess I just don’t understand why someone who’s already in a relationship would stay with their partner if they knew they were developing feelings for another person.

The biggest criticism I have for A Ship Made of Paper is the last half of the book after Marie Thorne goes missing. It felt as if the plot after this point in the story took a complete nosedive, leaving the reader feeling confused about what’s going on. While I understood what happened that changed everything, I feel almost as if this part of the story was a whole lot worse than the first half of the book, which wasn’t that much better either. While I liked that the end of this book was ambiguous, the rest of the story just lacked any sort of plot. We know Daniel feels guilty about Hampton’s condition, but the way Scott Spencer decides to take the story with him wasn’t at all an improvement. And then I felt like the robbery at the bar didn’t really add anything to the story because everyone then screamed they were robbed by black people. So all it did was show the prejudice of these characters, that they haven’t at all changed since the beginning of the book started.

So overall, A Ship Made of Paper was an okay read for me. I liked that there are a variety of topics that can be discussed when it comes to reading this book, but the plot of the story isn’t something to boast about. The book was fascinating enough to read, but not a story that I’ll reread anytime soon.

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast

I know I generally don’t write about movies on my blog, but the original Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney films from my childhood. So I found it only fitting to write a review of this new adaptation that’s hit the big screen. 

Released in 2017, Beauty and the Beast is centered around a young eccentric girl named Belle and the habitants of an enchanted castle. When the Beast in the castle takes Belle’s father as his prisoner, Belle takes her father’s place to live out the rest of her days in the castle. At first she finds the Beast unruly but as time continues on, she begins to see the Beast for the human he really is. 

This adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is equal parts fantasy and musical, which is one of the things I love about this adaptation of the original fairy tale. The fantasy elements are especially brought to life with the spell the Enchantress put on the castle and it’s inhabitants. All of the characters who live in the castle have been transformed into different household objects that can be found in a castle while the Prince is changed into a hideous Beast due to his horrible treatment of a woman whose appearance was very deceiving. The rose also held a special significance to this because if the Beast didn’t learn to love and be loved in return by the time the last rose petal fell, he and the other inhabitants would be stuck the way they are forever. Of course, you already know this if you’ve seen the original film, but I really find it to be a good example of how fantasy comes to life in this story. 

Another element I’ve enjoyed from this adaptation is all of the musical numbers, both familiar and new. The songs that they included from the original made me feel nostalgic, like I was traveling back to my childhood. It was nice because it made the movie that much more enjoyable for me to watch. But I also appreciated that they included some new songs too. I felt like it was a good way to remind the audience that this isn’t the original animated movie, that this adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was unique in its own way. I also found these new songs made the overall story that much more enjoyable to me. 

What I enjoyed the most about this film is the back story they give you about Belle and what happened to her mother. As a part of the audience, your never told exactly what happened to her mother, but are shown throughout the movie what happened as if you are right there when the chain of events unfold. They also do this in the beginning of the film too when the Beast is still the Prince. They show him not accepting the Enchantress into his castle and you watch as he and the rest of the crew transform. But they also tell you a little bit about what happened to the Beast’s mother too to give you an understanding of his character. I love that they added this background information for the characters because this information was never given in the animated film. 

One of my favorite things about this movie is seeing the Beast and Belle fall in love. The reason I love their romance is the overall message the story tells about love and appearances. It’s the message not to judge by appearances, that looks aren’t the best to look for in a life partner and that you never know who you’ll fall in love with. This message is important because it’s the truth. You don’t know who you’ll end up falling in love with or what the person you’ll fall in love with will look like. So when looking for a partner, don’t look for appearances, see who they are as a person. 

The one small criticism I have for Beauty and the Beast is that there are some awkward pauses in the film, both in the dialogue and songs. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed them when watching but I did and they bothered me, for some reason. 

But other than that, I really enjoyed this movie so much. Seeing the Beast and Belle’s love story come to life on the big screen in real life filming was a nice breath of fresh air. I was not at all disappointed to see one of my favorite movies from my childhood brought to life and can’t wait to see it again soon. I really enjoyed every minute of it and was sad to see it all end. 

Book Review: Hide and Seek (The Lying Game #4)

Rating: 4 stars

My friends and I used to play lying games. Now my twin sister is living one.

When I was alive, my family seemed picture-perfect. My adoptive parents adored me, and my little sister, Laurel, copied my every move. But now that my long-lost twin, Emma, has taken my place to solve my murder, we’re both learning just how flawed my family really is.

Laurel is shooting Emma nasty looks and sneaking around with my ex-boyfriend. And it turns out my parents are keeping a huge secret – could it be the reason I’m dead?

How far would they go to keep the truth buried? No one can harm me now, but Emma is still fair game. And if she’s not careful, she’ll end up buried, too…

Like the rest of the series, I found Hide and Seek to be such an enjoyable read. After ruling out Thayer as Sutton’s killer, some of those she holds dear become the next suspects on Emma’s list. Each has a potential motive for killing Sutton, but when Emma finds out what they’ve been hiding, she learns more about her and her twin than she knew before. But knowing these truths helps her realize there just might be someone she never expected to be behind Sutton’s death. 

I like this book in the series for different reasons than its predecessors. For one, you learn more about Emma and Sutton’s family, secrets you didn’t expect to uncover about their mother and how Sutton’s adoptive parents are connected to her. I like how this is included in this book in the series because we as readers actually don’t know too much about their family at all. I also think it gives this story more character development because Sutton continues to grow as a person when she realizes how little effort she put in to try to connect with her family. I honestly think family is the central theme in Hide and Seek because as Emma begins to bond with Sutton’s parents, she forms a stronger connection with them, which opens up to her being able to have a family to call her own for the first time. I find it to be a part of the story I truly enjoy because family is one of the most important things to me. So I’m rooting for her to finally have a home to call her own. 

Another aspect in this book I enjoyed is that there were a lot of surprising moments I didn’t see coming. These moments in the story made me want to continue reading in order to see Emma and Sutton’s reactions to what was going on. You discover the secret Sutton’s parents are keeping and how it reveals a new suspect to them that we all didn’t expect, someone who plays an important role in this series. 

I find with each page I read how much I love Shepard’s writing. The story is intense, full of mystery whenever it needs to be and she does a wonderful job of bringing detail through the flashbacks we experience. I find them to be interesting because she does a good job using them to bring new information to light. What I do wonder with them though is if Emma experiences them too, or if Sutton is just slowly recalling memories to unlock her murder. From what you read, I don’t think Emma is a part of those moments, since Emma and Sutton can’t communicate on their own right now. It’ll be interesting though as I get closer to the end of the series to see how Shepard decides to end Sutton’s part of the story. 

The one thing with Hide and Seek I don’t like is the same thing I don’t like with the rest of the series. The reason I hate this pattern so much is because I feel like she’s revealing a little too much to us. Because with each person eliminated as a suspect, we have less of a chance in feeling surprised when the suspect is finally revealed to us. It also makes these books a little predictable too because the reader already knows to suspect the person Emma and Sutton are suspicious of to be innocent of the crime committed. However, there is still a good side to this too. We get to know these people a little better, watch their character develop as the story reaches its climax. We get to better understand why this character is important in Sutton’s life while watching Emma learn something new about her lost twin everyday. It also eliminates people she knows, taking us one step closer to the actual killer. So while at times this pattern can be so predictable, it does have its benefits too. 

However, despite this one flaw in this book/series, I’m still enjoying it and can’t wait to see what befalls Emma next. It’s definitely been worth the read to me. 

Book Review: Never Have I Ever (The Lying Game #2)

Rating: 4 stars

My perfect life was a lie.

Now I’d do anything to uncover the truth.

Not long ago, I had everything a girl could wish for: amazing friends, an adorable boyfriend, a loving family. But none of them know that I’m gone–that I’m dead. To solve my murder, my long-lost twin sister, Emma, has taken my place. She sleeps in my room, wears my clothes, and calls my parents Mom and Dad.

And my killer is watching her every move.

I remember little from my life, just flashes and flickers, so all I can do is follow along as Emma tries to solve the mystery of my disappearance. But the deeper she digs, the more suspects she uncovers. It turns out my friends and I played a lot of games–games that ruined people’s lives. Anyone could want revenge . .. anyone could want me–and now Emma–dead.

When I finished reading The Lying Game, I initially wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading this series or not. But after reading Never Have I Ever, I realized this is a story I want to continue. 
This book is so much better than its predecessor for a number of reasons. For one, the story telling has drastically improved, almost as if Sara Shepard already had a plan in motion of what she wanted her characters to do next. I found myself following Emma and Sutton along on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. 

The characters are another reason I want to continue reading this series. In The Lying Game, Shepard did a horrible job at developing them in a way that made me want to learn more about them. However, in Never Have I Ever, she truly brings the characters to life via Emma’s dialogue with Sutton’s friends. In this book, I felt like Shepard did a really good job of making these characters more relatable to where I understood their problems and wished I could comfort them. She made me feel really sympathetic to them, which made me want to continue reading. 

The mystery surrounding Sutton’s death also drew me further into the story. I felt like the flashbacks Sutton experienced helped better understand her character while also helping eliminate potential suspects to her murder. So far, every person Emma suspects killed her twin has been proven wrong, making you want to continue reading to find out who her killer could be. 

What also makes me interested in wanting to continue reading this series is the amazing progress Shepard has made in moving the plot of the story along. A lot happened to Emma in this book than in the first one that added excitement to the story. The amount of conflict that occurs really spices things up, to where you think you have it figured out, but then another suspect is eliminated. This all makes you wonder whose going to appear in this series next, which is both exciting and annoying.

The reason I find this annoying is because there are so many people who could’ve killed Sutton. While I find it nice Emma has been able to eliminate some people as being her sister’s killer, I feel like we still aren’t anywhere close to getting the right suspect. This worries me because I’m concerned that this could drag the series on in a way to where I’m not going to want to read it anymore. I also think that even though she’s been able to eliminate some people, she should still be suspicious of them anyway, because they still have a motive, even if Emma and Sutton don’t see it that way anymore. 

Another thing I don’t like is how this book ended. I hate that she ended this book with a cliff hanger, because now I feel like I need to know what happens next. 

But despite these two things, I really enjoyed reading Never Have I Ever  much better than The Lying Game. I hope the next book in this series is just as good because I can’t wait to read it. 

Book Review: Landline

Rainbow Rowell Landline Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

I really enjoyed reading Landline. It is the second book by Rainbow Rowell that I’ve read and has become my favorite so far. What I loved about this story was how Rowell carried it out. In the beginning of the book, the reader quickly realizes that Georgie’s marriage to her husband Neal isn’t perfect. While Georgie is at work, her husband Neal spends his day at home, taking care of the kids and everything around the house. But the reader is able to easily see that Neal isn’t happy with this arrangement. The reason I love these details being portrayed in Landline is because marriages aren’t perfect. And the reader gets to see this through Neal and Georgie’s marriage to each other and what happens over the next couple days.

I also love these details because Rowell shows her readers that relationships aren’t perfect. The reader can see this throughout Landline when Neal leaves for Omaha with the kids. While he’s away, Georgie feels guilty that she didn’t go with him to his mother’s house. She also begins to reflect a lot on their relationship and wonders if they were even meant to be together. Or if they would’ve been better off not getting married in the first place. I love that Rowell makes Georgie reflect on their relationship because while they aren’t perfect for each other, the reader learns from this book that if you love someone enough, being perfect with each other doesn’t matter. As long as you are willing to be by your love’s side, you will be able to conquer all of the problems your relationship brings to the surface.

I also enjoyed reading Landline because of Georgie’s relationship with her best friend Seth. While they make Seth out to be the guy Georgie was meant to be with, I’m really glad they didn’t end up together. Yes, the reader can easily see how good of a couple they could’ve been, but I feel that her relationship with Neal was much stronger than her friendship with Seth. I know that she and Seth have been friends longer then she’s been with Neal, but I felt a stronger connection between her and Neal despite their imperfect relationship. I also found Seth to be highly entertaining and funny and just couldn’t picture the two of them being together as a couple.

Landline was also an enjoyable read for me because of the different dynamics of relationships Rowell brought into the book. Not only do you have an imperfect relationship between Neal and Georgie, but the book also has Georgie’s younger sister Heather who turns out to be gay and Georgie’s mother is married to a man closer to Georgie’s age than her own. There’s also Seth, who they make seem to be Georgie’s soul mate but really isn’t. I really like that these relationships between characters are completely dynamic because it made reading Landline for me that much more enjoyable. The book not only had dynamic characters but dynamic relationships, which made the book not turn out the way the reader would expect. While I don’t mind reading books where best friends of the opposite gender end up together, it’s also very nice to see that they can also be friends without becoming a couple too.

The only issue I had when reading Landline was the ending. Without spoiling any of you, I felt as if the ending of the book was pretty flat. Yes, it did catch me by surprise because it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I also felt as if the book just suddenly ended and everything was okay in Georgie’s universe. The reader never gets to find out what happens after that Christmas and whether Georgie and Neal’s marriage does continue on and that really bothered me when I finished reading.

However, the ending of Landline didn’t make me enjoy reading this book any less. I overall really enjoyed reading this book more than I did Fangirl and can’t wait to read some more of Rainbow Rowell’s other novels.

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